COE: Phyllis Balcerzak
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Department of Educator Preparation and Leadership

Phyllis Balcerzak, Ph.D., is an Assistant Teaching Professor in the College of Education at the University of Missouri-St. Louis where she works with teams to explore, design, and build innovative programming for K-20 students and educators. Balcerzak received her Ph.D. from Kent State University in Ecology (1990). She joined the UMSL-COE in 2015 after retiring from her career at Washington University where she was a clinical associate professor of teacher preparation (1996-2006) and director of professional development in science education (2006-2014). Through the course of her career, Balcerzak has designed and implemented several national and state STEM initiatives for K-12 teachers, among these the Center for Inquiry in Science Teaching and Learning (CISTL), a collaboration between higher education and informal science institutions; Life Sciences for a Global Community, a national MS in biology degree program at Washington University in St. Louis, for secondary teachers; and, Tools of Inquiry, a graduate degree program for educators interested in the design of professional development for K-12 educators.  

Balcerzak’s interests are in researching differentiated professional learning for educators working with K-12 students. In support of this work she has studied the conditions enabling the transfer of professional learning from summer institutes to the K-12 classroom. Through her leadership in the National Science Foundation’s Noyce master teacher and scholarship programs, she has engaged in the adaptation of teacher preparation and induction support to increase the effectiveness of beginning teacher initiatives in high need/under-resourced schools.

Dr. Balcerzak has extended her study of the ecological sciences into the development of K-8 curricula published in partnership with the National Institute for Health, Human Impact and Ecology: An Investigative Curriculum for Middle School Teachers; Microbial Fuel Cells, a project-based curriculum for chemistry teachers; and with Horizon Research, Chapel Hill, NC, a curriculum for the development of professional leadership for secondary life science teachers, Journal of the Math Science Partnership Knowledge Dissemination Project.

Prior to her work in higher education, Balcerzak was a teacher of science and social studies for students in grades 4-12, where she focused her attention on the processes and strategies for teaching a student-centered curriculum. This foundational experience as a practitioner has informed her subsequent goals to place research in the service to practice and to generate research from the study of practice.